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The Irreplaceable Essence of Mustard Oil in Culinary Traditions

Updated: Jun 6

Mustard Oil in Culinary Traditions
Mustard Oil in Culinary Traditions

Over the years, this blog has often highlighted the many ways in which chefs, both in India and abroad, perceive Mustard Oil. They see it as being a lot more than just a cooking medium. And they aver that it is irreplaceable. You can’t recreate the flavour of a traditional mustard oil-based dish by using any other oil; nor would the recipe remain authentic if one were to substitute mustard oil with some other oil.

For instance, traditional recipes from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and other regions of north India have been made using Mustard Oil for hundreds of years. Substituting any other oil in place of Mustard Oil will change the flavour… usually for the worse. Then there are traditional cuisines where substituting Mustard Oil is impossible, the Wazwan cuisine of Kashmir for example. In Wazwan, Mustard Oil is used in multiple stages of preparation and cooking. It is used for marinating the meat, cooking the various ingredients, and in the preparation of the gravy (Tadka) that is drizzled over the final dish prior to serving. All this makes Mustard Oil an intrinsic part of the taste of the dish being prepared. If one were to use refined oil instead of Mustard Oil, the taste would be ruined completely.

Mustard Oil also allows chefs to engage in the creative marshalling of flavours within a dish. Chef Manjit Gill feels that the strong definitive flavour of Mustard Oil gives culinary professionals a chance to blend other flavours with the spicy warmth of Mustard Oil to create new experiences for the palate. Chef Gill has successfully blended the flavour of Mustard Oil with sweet elements like jaggery, and sour ingredients like lemon juice. The resultant taste can be unexpectedly and pleasantly different, according to Chef Gill.

Food writer and photographer Shannon Weber has a rather interesting description for the taste of Mustard Oil – and it is always intriguing to get a Western consumer’s perspective on something as innately Indian as Mustard Oil. She says Mustard Oil is something that “adds an unexpected layer of flavour” to a dish. So true!

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